Tuesday 28 November 2023

Fit to Print

The Game

The graphic artist for Fit to Print is Ian O'Toole, who is currently the graphic artist in the boardgame industry. I wasn't aware it was him initially. I thought the art was fantastic and evocative. It was after the game that I realised it was his work. Good artwork contributes a lot to the play experience. 

Fit to Print is about newspaper editing. It is a real-time, spatial game. Over three rounds, you will be arranging the front cover of your own newspaper. It will be for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday editions of your paper. Players work on their own personal newspapers. You try to arrange your front page well in order to score points. After three rounds, the highest scorer wins. 

During setup, you get your own player board (your newspaper front page) and a work desk. The desk is 3D, although you can't really tell from this photo. It's a nice touch. At the start of a round, all tiles are spread around the table face-down. You need a countdown timer to play a round. We were all new to the game, so we agreed on 5 minutes. Within 5 minutes, you have to claim tiles from the centre of the table, and also fit them all onto your newspaper. The tiles are articles, photos and ads. Everyone does this simultaneously. 

When you take a tile. You flip it over to see what type it is. You can decide whether to keep it. If you want to keep it, you place it on your desk. Otherwise, you return it face-up to the centre of the table. That means others can see it and they can decide to take it. When you are still claiming tiles, you can't arrange them on your newspaper yet. Only when you are done with claiming tiles can you switch to tile arrangement. 

Ideally you are able to place all your tiles. Any leftovers entail a penalty. There are rules around tile placement. Articles of the type (business, entertainment or technology) cannot be adjacent to each other. Ads cannot be adjacent. Photos either. Some photos score points based on adjacent articles. You want to place them next to relevant articles. Every round everyone gets a special headline article which provides some special ability or an additional way to score points. Articles can be cheery or gloomy, and your newspaper needs to be balanced. Imbalance leads to a penalty. You also don't want to leave too much blank space. Players will compare their largest blank space at the end of every round. They gain and lose points based on how well they have managed their blank space. 

This particular headline offers an additional way to score points.

This was my newspaper from the first round, i.e. Friday. The difference between the three rounds is the size of your canvas. Friday is 7 x 14, Saturday 8 x 16, and Sunday 9 x 18. 

The ads are orange, and they have $ signs. Over the three rounds you total up your advertising income. Whoever earns the least is automatically disqualified. Only the rest get to compare points to see who wins. This can be quite brutal. 

There are three types of articles - green, blue and pink. Articles of the same colour must not touch. If you make a mistake, you have to flip over the offending tile. This will cause you to score fewer points. In the photo above, my photo tile on the left scores points for each adjacent green and pink article. So it scores 3 points in total. 

Some news articles are positive (cheery), some are negative (gloomy). The positive ones have yellow circles, and the negative ones blue circles. Your newspaper must try to be balanced in this. Any imbalance causes you to lose points. In this photo above I have 3 positive icons and 4 negative icons. This imbalance forces me to lose 1 point. 

The Play

The real-time aspect of Fit to Print feels like Galaxy Trucker, but this is a simpler game and is probably better for families. Being real-time makes the game exciting and engaging. It is not easy to accurately gauge whether you have claimed just the right number of tiles. If you claim too few, you are missing out on scoring opportunities and too much blank space can cost you points. If you claim too many, tiles you cannot place cost you points. 

This is mostly a multiplayer solitaire game. There is some player interaction, but it is not direct. You can look at tiles discarded by others to see whether they suit you. You can't really meddle with other players' newspapers. You do have to pay attention to the ads. Being faster than others is useful, because for the next round you'll get to pick your headline tile first. Most of the time you're working on your own paper. 

I noticed Albert tended to be the first to complete his work. He applied a clever tactic. He specifically chose larger tiles of about the same size. This way he didn't have to claim many tiles, and arranging them was easy, almost like laying out a checkered floor tile pattern. This also helped in minimising blank space. However I am not sure how effective this is in scoring points. With fewer tiles, it seems points will be less too. 

Some photos have good scoring abilities. I took a different approach, and claimed many small tiles. I wanted to fulfil the scoring conditions of the photos as much as possible, by placing many relevant articles around them. 

This was my Saturday (Round 2) paper. The rule in this game is similar to that of Blokus. Tiles touching at corners are not considered adjacent, but tiles sharing an edge are. In this photo above, my three photo tiles are touching at the corners, so they are not considered adjacent, and thus their placements are legal. 

At the top right I have a vertical article placed in a weird position. The reason is I wanted to avoid creating a large empty space. Had I placed it along the right edge, I would have a 10-square empty space. Now I had a 6-square empty space and a 4-square empty space. When players compare empty spaces, you don't add up all empty squares, you only look at the largest empty spaces and compare their sizes. My largest empty space is that at the bottom right: 8 squares. 

My Sunday paper. This time I didn't plan as well as previous rounds. I had one extra ad left at my desk (on the right) because I couldn't squeeze it in. This time my headline allowed me to earn extra $ for each ad above the fold, i.e. in the top half of my board. It turned out to be crucial for me. Without this $2 more, I would have come in last in ad revenue, and would have been disqualified. With that $2, I barely managed to squeeze into second last place. This is an interesting mechanism. I know Cleopatra and the Society of Architects has this too. It can be brutal, and that's why it's fun. 

The Thoughts

Fit to Print is pretty, engaging and also easy to learn. It is a pleasant play experience. In real life, newspapers are on the way to become a relic. How many still read them in physical form? Playing this game is like playing a historical game. You get transported to a past age. There is not a lot of player interaction, but the real-time aspect and the spatial element keeps you busy enough. 

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